It’s time once again to take a break from deep diving and come up for air to share my draft thoughts. Why should you the reader care? Well, last season I gave you my RazzSlam draft recap, on my way to finishing third in total points (more on that later). Also, in 2021 I finished 9th overall in the final cut. “What’s the difference?” I hear the man in the back muttering. Glad you asked! With the way the cutline format works, there are cut lines (shocker) or checkpoints you have to clear in the playoffs or you get moved down to the wildcard tier. And if you score enough the following checkpoint you live on or move back up a tier. Long story short, there’s some luck involved with WHEN you score points as it’s not simple roto tallies; despite having the third most points in the tournament, I finished 13th (yes the top 3 scoring teams finished outside the final 10). So all you can control is putting your best foot forward and hope the points come in when you need them.
Anyway, back to the concept of drafts! Fantasy drafts are about a delicate balance of maximizing your pick value along with harmonizing your team construction. Points leagues like RazzSlam are no different if not the purest form of such. It’s all about relative value to the field on single sliding scale, no categories. Player A is projected for X amount of points, and player B for X+20 points. How likely is said player to meet or exceed that projection? fall short? It’s important to pick your spots on when to seek value plays and when to shoot for the moon and when you see “windows of equivalent value.” Obviously, with an overall, you want some moon shots, but you also don’t want to overexpose yourself to a flop should you miss. You want the median outcome to be as close to (or better than) the slot value as possible, no matter whether it’s a hitter or pitcher since all contributions are converted to the same point scale. Who cares about 5 steals or .020 AVG, because 1 steal = 2.5 R/RBI = 1.25 hits, etc. The biggest thing to be mindful of is balancing consistent producers vs variance.
Equivalent value. What does that mean? The top 12 pitchers last year averaged a total of 574.5 points; the top 12 hitters a total of 779.5 points. That’s a big difference at the top. It’s slightly skewed a bit by Aaron Judge’s 1118, but the #12 hitter Jose Altuve was still 683. Compared to the top pitcher, Sandy Alcantara, at 635 which was 22nd overall. The year prior it was even a greater gap and the top hitter was Vladdy Jr at over 900 points. Point is, hitters (especially elite hitters) can reach a higher peak so its important to collect a solid baseline first, then around pick 100 when the pitcher values outnumber the hitters, load up in those rounds. There were many aspects to how I approached my draft, but I will tell you following these pockets was one of them. And best way to identify these pockets was using Rudy’s Best Ball War Room that subscribers have access to just like me; I’m not just a spokesperson, I’m a client.
Without further ado, lets have some fun and breakdown the draft by position, including everyone who qualifies…
|Shea Langeliers (UT)
I’m going to say this so everyone in the back can hear me: YOU DON’T NEED A TOP-RANKED CATCHER AT COST TO WIN YOUR LEAGUE OR EVEN THE OVERALL. In fact, in most cases taking a top catcher is committing to a suboptimal build in favor of a security blanket. Momma isn’t going to tuck you into first place. A lot of times in points/best ball taking the top catcher at ADP is committing to a suboptimal build. To paraphrase Rudy, playing suboptimal is not bad/impossible as long as you have a plan to make up for that lost value later. Friends, countrymen, Romans, I don’t want to give anything up from the start, so unless I’m going for a meme, I don’t want to build suboptimal from the start. I want to remain limber so I can adjust during the draft if needed (which includes not waiting too late on pitchers too).
What you do want from your catchers is above the breakpoint at-bats, and as much as you can muster without overpaying too much. What is the breakpoint? In points leagues, this depends on the scoring system. In a cutline like RazzSlam, the break-even for hitters is a .250 AVG. Going 1-for-4 at the plate is zero points and 0-for-4s without counting stats is a negative. You want to maximize your catcher ABs and try to stay above that .250 breakpoint. First catcher at plus value to draft slot on the board was Alejandro Kirk, so I circled him with a pink highlighter and drew a heart by his name. I grabbed him first like last year for the 500+ ABs aided by DH and the plus average. Then I targeted Langeliers for another middle-of-the-order bat and a catching job all to himself in Oaktown, eligibility will come quickly. Then I held off until late hoping for a breakout from Nick Fortes who showed the rare catcher combo of power and speed that can hedge the breakpoint. And lastly, Blake Sabol (moonshot) who shows all the makings of a middle-of-the-order hitter, thanks to the good work by Prospect Itch he’s a rule 5 pick drafted by the Reds who the Giants went out of their way to trade for. Rule 5 players have to remain on the active roster (Akil Badoo rookie season anyone?) or they get sent back to their original team. The Giants have already indicated they will play him some in the outfield that already contains oft-injured players like Haniger. Please and thank you.
First Base (5)
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
My first pick was Vladdy Jr, yes. He’s one season removed from a top-scoring 900-point campaign and was a little unlucky last year. Add in that Toronto moved some fences in and, boom, you looking for this? Big offensive season coming from Vladito. Next in round 4 went with Matt Olson. He struggled a bit at the start of last year and still delivered big numbers in that offense. Some early spring games have featured him hitting 2nd, so sign me up. I can’t quit Wil Myers, it’s true, and him playing his home games in Great American Ballpark only makes it more appealing. If he can stay healthy for 400+ ABs, this will be free money. Flores is multi-position insurance. I grabbed many of those as you will see, all in the spirit of raising the bottom line for optimizing weekly points in the lineup. Moose is the end of draft moon shot, almost any veteran former slugger that signs with Colorado can be interesting in best ball. Plus he’s also got 3B (which will be important).
Second Base (5)
Round 7 came and I jumped on Andres Gimenez. Elite contact skills with a combo of power and speed on a team that loves contact, gimme Gim. He scored more than many other top players last year in fewer ABs and if he can get 550+ ABs this season he could be a massive value. Next, my “starting third baseman” Brendan Donovan with multi-positions should settle into a key role with a Cardinals team that likes to score (who doesn’t?) and after an offseason stance change, he’s looking fierce in camp. Flores makes an appearance again; he’s nothing flashy, but solid infield coverage and mildly interesting power. Joey Wendle is another multi-position player whom I will cover in the next blurb. Lastly, Espinal is a hedge on the health of the Toronto lineup. If any of the OF goes down, there’s a good chance Whit rotates out and Espinal covers 2B with a .250+ AVG.
Short Stop (3)
See Vladdy Jr at first base: Bo Bichette has the fences moved in and has voiced a desire to steal more, giddy up. Last year he posted the 13th-highest point total, so any improvement anywhere is a bonus. Trust the skills, elite contact and the power/speed combo at the front of a dangerous lineup. Yes, I’ve invested a lot in stacking the Blue Jays lineup this year. Amed Rosario is basically Boba light (and a little faster); I’ll call him Teapioca. Joey Wendle is going to be the starting SS for the Marlins this year after they sent Miguel Rojas packing to the Dodgers. He has shown good contact with light power and some speed, all things for a strong bottom line. All are strong contact hitters which is boring for roto but golden for points. Per Wendle, redundancy around the horn is always a good thing to have.
Third Base (6)
Many hands make much work light. As you wondered when you read the title, yes, this is it. I missed out on my early 3B targets (Machado, Bregman, Henderson) so I opted to punt. This is normally not the greatest idea; but, in best ball leagues where the weekly roster is optimized for you, THIS CAN WORK IF YOU PLAN AROUND IT. I started with Brendan Donovan whom I, as stated earlier, believe will get a lion-share of productive ABs for me at 3B (via playing 2B for the Cardinals). Then to CYA my depth chart in case of injury or suckery I loaded up on multi-pos players: Flores and Wendle as you heard, Gio Urshela will get some time at 1B and SS on occasion and when/if Rendon misses time represents the Angels’ (and my) contingency plan at 3B, David Villar is the 2023 anointed 3B for the Giants that I broke down here, and finally Moose in Colorado. Who’s playing third base for me? Yes, all of them. Third base by committee via redundancy. Third base by committee via redundancy.
|Michael Harris II
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Outfield is a deep roster position that you have to maintain. Five slots are no joke and without weekly waivers, you need to maintain a deep stable. I have 11 with 12th on the way via Sabol during the season (I hope). First off, I took MH2 at the end of the third round. Based on Rudy’s regressed projection of him over a full season this could be amazing value at this slot, and if he takes any kind of step forward we’re printing money. Springer is another investment into the Toronto stack and potentially a big value in that lineup. Nimmo is a points league king. Lourdes played through a hand injury all last season and, despite sapping his power, it didn’t keep him from maintaining plus contact. I see a good rebound season for him. I doubled-dipped on Colorado outfielders Blackmon and Grichuck, surely one of them can stay healthy and give my plus ABs at home. Grey and I both like Olivares for a breakout this year. Rosario got his eyes fixed and was seeing clearly in the WBC. Pollock is somehow forgotten? Thanks!
Yu Darvish was the first big discount value for pitchers, so I jumped on it. He’s a good bet for close to 200 IP and K/9 above 9 with a good shot at a high win rate. Musgrove is already doing pitcher drills so I welcome the discount as he looks likely to miss only a couple of starts. Airbender feels like a huge value as he posted 40+ saves and holds last year. And now with the closer gig all to himself, a top reliever season is within reach. Usually, I avoid relievers in best ball to maximize 2-start weeks for starters but he came at a deep discount to projections for the possibility of 30 saves and 100 Ks. I love Joe Ryan this year as he might be on every one of my teams. If Grey hadn’t written a sleeper on him, I would have out of the gate. I then went on a run of value innings compilers in a pocket of pitchers that stand to get some wins with Giolito (who fixed his mechanics this offseason, and you might see a post from me later), Wright, and JoMo. Then again with Perez, Marquez, and Waino. Peterson stands to be the 5th starter for the Mets on Opening Day who has already been mentored by Verlander in camp. Likewise, German looks to be 5th for the Yankees, and Shuster the same for Atlanta after impressing with his new slider in camp. Atlanta always seems to create a top-25 pitcher out of thin air, so why not Shuster. In 2021, Tony Disco was a top pitcher before ankle injuries robbed him of his 2022 season. His ankle, not his arm. At no cost, a free shot at a comeback season.
Big fan of the team I collected… I acquired a diverse and balanced position coverage with a plethora of multi-position guys to create a safety net of redundancy. Should I face some injuries (which you always do) I should have plenty of fallback security. I made a point to avoid taking as many hitters below the perceived .250 AVG threshold as possible. Last year there were a few weeks I still had some zeros due to injury, so with a lot of high AVG contact hitters I hope to navigate that a bit better this year. To round out my squad, I mixed in some high-variance players (Rockies) with a variety of moon shots across different positions hoping to cash in like I did last year. Though not my plan going in I managed a deep stack of the Toronto lineup 1-4 and a mild stack with Atlanta and Colorado without forcing the issue at the cost of draft value. With this build, I think I give my team a strong chance at overachieving draft value (and the median outcome) on the path to making a run at the overall via consistent weekly points. Here’s hoping for a third consecutive top finish! What do you think of my draft? Let me know in the comments below.
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